Empathy, Psychotherapy Integration, and Meditation: A Buddhist Contribution to the Common Factors Movement

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

Fall 2005


Clinicians from several theoretical approaches have explored the common ground between Buddhism and Western psychotherapeutic models. In this article, the synthesis of Buddhism and psychotherapy is considered from the context of psychotherapy integration. Toward that end, the Buddhism and psychotherapy literature and the psychotherapy outcome research is reviewed with a focus on the findings of therapy equivalence and common factors among treatment approaches. Empathy and the relationship variables factor are discussed; it is argued that Buddhist meditation contains a dialectic between striving and self-acceptance. An essential aspect of meditation is seen as identical to an essential component in therapeutic personality change. It is argued that therapist empathy and meditation promote a self-directed empathy that enhances the interdependence, integration, and cohesion of self. Several approaches to the integration of psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation are compared to the views are presented here, and recommendations are offered for the clinical application of meditation training.


David T. Andersen is an adjunct professor in the Psychology and Education Departments at Sacred Heart University.